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Armed with a new revenue stream from the recently approved increase in the county sales tax, Metro's board of directors approved environmental impact studies for four major transit projects. The board approved studies for the so-called Subway to the Sea through the Westside; an extension of the Orange Line busway from Canoga to Chatsworth; a link between the Gold and Blue Line light rail systems in downtown Los Angeles; and an extension of the transit network farther east into the Whittier or Industry areas. Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in November, will allow Metro to fund more projects concurrently than it has in the past, according to Metro spokesman Marc Littman.
"I think we're making progress and keeping faith with the folks who approved Measure R," said Metro board chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The four projects are still in their infancy, but the board approved the necessary studies that precede breaking ground. The Canoga busway project is the furthest along, with the board giving approval to the creation of a final environmental impact report, or EIR. For the other projects, the board authorized contractors to prepare draft EIRs. Even with Measure R funds, Metro still won't have the money to build the four projects single-handedly, but board members expressed their hope that getting them ready to go would help attract federal money.
Having lost $136 million in state funding because of the state's budget deficit, Metro officials are hoping for funds from a federal stimulus package that is expected to try to create jobs by funding infrastructure improvements such as transportation projects. Meanwhile, Villaraigosa announced the creation of a Measure R Project Delivery Committee composed of Metro board members that is to ensure that projects funded with the sales tax revenues are completed on time. The committee will be headed up by Measure R proponents Richard Katz, as chairman, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, as vice chair; but will also include outspoken opponent Supervisor Don Knabe, Villaraigosa said.